REGION 4 PREVIEW

 

2013 CHAMPION(S): Girard and Northwestern

OTHER PLAYOFF QUALIFIERS: Fort LeBoeuf and Fairview

 

PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS

2012: Corry^ and Northwestern

2011: North East

2010: General McLane^

2009: General McLane^

2008: North East

2007: Harbor Creek 

2006: Farview

2006: Girard

2005: North East

^=team is no longer in region

 

 

 

1. NORTH EAST GRAPEPICKERS

HEAD COACH: Matt Shesman

2013 RECORD: 3-4 region (fifth), 5-5 overall

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 38-17

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 76-31

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 7 (2005 and 2007-2012)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 0

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 19.9 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 6

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 12

 

Last year was the first time since 2006 that North East averaged fewer than 20 points per game and the team scored more than 20 only four times, cracking the 30-point barrier just twice. Partially because of this, only three members of the offense earned all-region honors and of that group only second team left guard Ben Stritzinger is back. Joining Stritzenger as returning starters up front are his senior classmates Craig Zuccolotto, a third year starter at center, and right guard Logan Reynolds. Kevin Cooney replaces Josh Gillespie, who was the offenses only first team all-region selection, at left tackle and his fellow junior Robert Wagner and sophomore Jeff Kraemer are both options to be the new right tackle. Class of 2014 member Jordan Bryan is the other all-region member (second team, running back) who must be replaced as he led last year's team in all rushing stats (161 carries, 1185 yards, 11 touchdowns), but the backfield should still be strong with junior Garrett Owens (149-755-7) leading the way. Senior Lucas Brown and sophomore Brady Conn are the other main running backs, although Conn also sees time at wide receiver along with juniors Trent Leonard (who is a transfer student from Mercer) and Dominic Collazo. Trey Tanner is the wingback with his senior classmate Jarod Rathman and sophomore Dylan Garskie the top two tight ends. Senior Macaulay enters his third as the starting quarterback and hasn't put up great stats the past two years (655 yards passing, five touchdowns, nine interceptions - 127 yards rushing, one touchdown), but did help lead North East to a playoff berth in 2012.

 

 

DEFENSE

Allowed 18.8 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 5

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 9

 

2013 marked the first time in more than a decade that North East didn't end the regular season with a top three scoring defense amongst same class teams, although the Grapepickers did close the year by allowing point totals of 14, 6 and 14 in their final three games after giving up 20 in five of the previous seven contests. The secondary and more specifically the safety position could be the strength of this year's defense with first team all-region pick Macaulay (59 tackles, four interceptions) and Owens (31 tackles, two interceptions) both returning starters. Second team choice Zuccolotto (49 tackles) was the only other member of last year's defense to earn any form of all-region recognition a season ago and he's joined on this year's line by fellow tackle Stritzinger (15 tackles, one sack) and defensive ends Rathman (38 tackles, two sacks) and Cooney (24 tackles, one sack). Linebacker looks to be the most inexperienced position on defense as Reynolds (24 tackles, one interception) is the only returning player who had more than six tackles in 2013. Brown, Tanner and junior Lucas Still complete the group at linebacker and the trio combined for 10 tackles at the varsity level last season.  Collazo, Leonard and senior Nic Hupp are the top three cornerbacks and Hupp led the trio with nine tackles a season ago.

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Macaulay returns as the both the kicker and punter and was a first team all-region choice at both spots last season, while the top three return men are Owens, Collazo and Leonard.

 

 

 

OUTLOOK 

A streak of six straight postseason appearances came to an end for North East last year, but with what the team has back it seems to have the ability to not only get back into the playoffs, but to seriously contend for a region crown as well.

 

 

 

 

2. NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

HEAD COACH: D.J. Hough

2013 RECORD: 6-1 region (tied first), 9-3 overall (lost 14-52 to Hickory in district semifinals)

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 28-26

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 45-62

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 3 (2011-2013)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 0

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

 

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 31.3 points per game last season (not including playoffs)

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 2

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 3

Last year was the second straight season that Northwestern averaged more than 30 points per game, but to continue that streak the Wildcats must replace seven starters, including first team all-region running back Brandon Reiser, who rushed for 1504 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2013. Senior Kyle Panko was a second team all-region tight end last season (11 receptions, 144 yards, three touchdowns), but makes the move to the backfield this season and he'll be joined as a starting running back by junior classmates Creo Lockwood and Damius Diehl. Junior Nate Tewell completed six of eight pass attempts for75 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in limited action last season and is the new quarterback and the receivers are senior Derek Sherman and junior Mike Luba. Junior Ethan Sheptow replaces Panko as the tight end, while line includes two returning starters in senior center Nate Camp and junior guard Christian Linn. Matt Cherry is the other guard with his senior classmate Kyle Pollard holding one of the tackle spots and junior Jacob Hanson manning the other.

 

 

DEFENSE

Allowed 8.3 points per game last season (not including playoffs)

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 1

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 1

 

Including the postseason, Northwestern held seven of 12 2013 opponents to single digits and that included shutout victories over Seneca and Harbor Creek. With seven starters, including five all-region member, lost to graduation repeating that same success could prove difficult, although two of returnees are first team all-region choices Panko, who led last year's team with 97 tackles, adding a sack as the starting middle linebacker, and Tewell, who finished 2013 with 35 tackles and, a team-high, four interceptions, from his safety position. Linn (19 tackles) is the third returning starter and he's joined on this year's line by fellow defensive tackle Hanson, defensive ends Cherry and Sheptow and nose guard Camp. Linebackers Derek Bird and Isaac Merritt and cornerbacks Ryan Clinger and Matt Luba complete the list of defensive starters and all four are juniors.

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Tewell was a second team all-region punter last year and also enters his second season as the team's kicker.

 

 

OUTLOOK

With only six of 22 positions being filled by returning starters it's hard to imagine Northwestern being as good as it was last year, but that does not mean the team won't be in the hunt for a fourth straight playoff berth and maybe even another region crown. Another thing to remember is that with 14 of 22 starting positions, including the starting quarterback spot and two of the three starting running back positions, being filled by juniors, as good as this year's team is the 2015 Northwestern squad could be even better.

 

 

 

 

3. GIRARD YELLOW JACKETS

HEAD COACH: Jim Funk

2013 RECORD: 6-1 region (tied first), 10-3 overall (lost 10-21 to Hickory in District 10 Championship game)

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 29-23

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 51-49

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 4 (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2013)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 0

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

 

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 35.4 points per game last season (not including playoffs)

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 1

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 2

 

Girard must replace four of six all-region selections, including quarterback Joe Dunn, who was a first team choice both of the past two seasons and was region co-player of the year in 2013, and tight end Brian McNally, who earned first team honors each of the past three seasons. Senior Nason McCall moves from wide receiver to quarterback and coach Funk believes he has the tools to be very good at his new spot. One thing that should make McCall's transition at least somewhat easier is the return of senior, first team all-region all purpose back, Kel Barnes, who enters his third season as a starter and rushed for over 1,000 yards and at least 10 touchdowns both of the last two years. Junior Brenden Kohan is the H-Back with senior, second team all-region pick, Cody Dinger and junior Bo Scalise the wide receivers. Brandon Etter and Mike Eller share time at tight end, Kyle Titus returns as one starting tackle and the trio's senior classmate Rick Edder moves from guard to be the other tackle. Junior Robbie Gatesman is the new center and the starting guard spots are between juniors Jake Sack, Quenton Kooken and Adam Vasilik.

 

DEFENSE

Averaged 12.8 points per game last season (not including playoffs)

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 2

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 4

 

Dunn (safety) and McNally (linebacker) were both first team all-region picks on defense as well as offense last year and Girard must also replace its three second team all-region picks in fellow defensive linemen Nick Deaver and Jordan Friend and linebacker Bryan Divido. The most experienced unit on the side of the ball is probably the secondary, although Dinger moves from cornerback to safety. McCall is back as the other starting corner with Dinger's old spot being filled by either Eller or senior Austin Bowers. On the line Titus returns as one of the defensive tackles with Etter, Sack, Kooken, Vasilik and Gatesmen all in the mix at the other tackle and the two defensive end spots. Edder moves from the line to start at middle linebacker with Kohan holding one of the other spots and Barnes, senior Travis Carr and fellow sophomores Shane Boyles and Kyle Zampogna all in the hunt for the other two in the team's 4-4 scheme.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior Cole Fails replaces first all-region choice Devin Mason as the kicker, while Dinger is the punter and likely to be joined on kick and/or punt returns by Barnes, Kohan and Scalise.

 

OUTLOOK

After reaching the District 10 championship game a season ago, coach Funk hopes that the phrase "success breeds success" holds true for his team. His other hope is that some of the younger players can step up and fill in where needed and coming off a strong offseason he believes this team has an opportunity to build off of what least year's group achieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. SENECA BOBCATS

HEAD COACH: David Frank

2013 RECORD: 2-5 region (tied sixth), 3-7 overall

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 11-39

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 34-67

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 2 (2005-2006)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 0

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

 

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 10.1 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 7

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 14

 

The last time that Seneca averaged at least 20 points per game was 2006 and not surprisingly, that is the last time that the Bobcats qualified for the postseason. This year's team has some experience at the "skill" positions, but must replace its only all-region selection in first team guard Kamron Brace, who was a second team all-region choice in 2012. Senior tackle Sam LaRoche and junior guard Noah Runser are returning starters on the line with seniors Brandon Libra (tackle) and Dan Brady (center) and junior guard Tory Pusateri completing the group. Senior Jarrett Pound is the new quarterback and the running backs are fellow juniors Adam Fish (163 carries, 798 yards, three touchdowns) and Chris Hibbler (82-374-4). Cody Pregler (10 receptions, 96 yards, one touchdown) and Jeremy Yost are the wide receivers and the their fellow senior Jaime Sommers, who spent time at quarterback last season, completing 14 of 38 passes for 137 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions, while also catching five balls for 70 yards, is the tight end.

 

 

DEFENSE 

Allowed 21.5 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 6

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 11

 

Seneca's defense was clearly the stronger of the two units last season and in its final four games the team gave up a total 27 points (6.75 per game), while limiting three foes to no more than one score.  This year's defense is led by two all-region linebackers in first team member Zach Muye and second team choice Sommers with the duo's senior classmate Steve Stroup the third starter. First team nose tackle Ian Moore is the only all-region player the defensive must replace and all five starters on the offensive line are in the rotation on the defensive line as well, as are senior Dakota Braine and junior Jon Shuhart. Fish and Hibbler are returning starters in the secondary and Yost is in his first year as the other starter.

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Senior Nick Johnson handles all kicking and punting responsibilities with Hibbler and Fish the kick and punt returners.

 

 

OUTLOOK

Seneca closed last year by winning three of its final four games and a getting off to a quick start this season could go a long way in determining whether this team can end a seven year postseason drought.

 

 

 

 

 

5. FAIRVIEW TIGERS

HEAD COACH: Jim Brinling

2012 RECORD: 4-3 region (fourth), 6-4 overall (lost 30-33 to Greenville in district quarterfinals)

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 26-24

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 67-36

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 9 (2004-2005 as Class A team, 2006-2010 and 2012-2013 as Class AA team)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 0

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

 

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 29.4 points per game last season (not including playoffs)

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 3

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 6

 

The biggest question facing the Fairview offense is obviously how to replace Shannon Jackson, who was a first team all-region running back both of the last two years and rushed for 3722 yards and 39 touchdowns in that time. Junior Harold Coles (61 carries, 400 yards, four touchdowns) and senior Joe Martone (21-107-0) share time at the tailback position this season and the fullback is senior Dan Paden (25-145-0). Junior Michael Duckett and sophomore Chris Hudson could both see time at quarterback, senior Scott Klemm (nine receptions, 163 yards, two touchdowns), junior Jose Lopez and sophomore Travis Chorney are the top three wide receivers and the tight end is senior Ben Lipinski. On the line, Fairview must replace four starters, including first team all-region choices Jeff Dann and Kevin Burkholder and this year's list of starters includes senior tackles Sean Welch and Frank Lasky, junior center Mike Smallshawk, junior guard Zach Haile and freshman guard Zach Kupniewski.

 

 

DEFENSE

Allowed 20.7 points per game last season (not including playoffs)

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 5

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 9

 

Second team all-region choices Paden (94 tackles) and Welch (34 tackles, two sacks) are back to lead a defense that allowed fewer than 20 points per game for the first time since 2010 last year. Lipinski (44 tackles) and Smallshaw (15 tackles) join Paden as starting linebackers and along with Welch, the line is made up of senior Lucas Hess (42 tackles), Haile (35 tackles, two sacks), Lasky (13 tackles), and Hudson. Klemm led all returning defensive backs with 29 tackles and other members of this year's secondary are Coles (20 tackles, one interception), Martone (17 tackles, two interceptions) and Lopez.

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Martone handles all kicking and punting responsibilities and is joined as a kick/punt returner by Coles.

 

 

OUTLOOK

There is probably no one player that will replace the production of Jackson, so the success of the Tigers season could come down to getting increased outputs from a number of different faces.

 

 

 

 

 

6. FORT LEBOEUF BISONS

HEAD COACH: Jeff Nichols

2013 RECORD: 5-2 region (third), 7-4 overall (lost 7-56 to Hickory in district quarterfinals)

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 23-39

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 40-60

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 3 (2007, 2009 and 2013)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 0

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

 

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 22.6 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 5

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 11

 

Last year was the first time since 2009 and just the second time since 2004 that Fort LeBoeuf averaged at least 20 points per game and to repeat the same success the team must replace five starters, including first team all-region tackle Nate Conti - who was also a first team all-region pick in 2012 - and second team all-region running back Cy Carroll (148 carries, 974 yards, seven touchdowns). Second team all-region guard Garrett Reinwald is the lone returning all-region player on offense, but is one of three returning senior starters on the line with fellow guard Josh Beer and tackle Jacob Stull the others. Senior center Justin Kula and junior tackle Gavin Pacoe are the two new starters on the line. Seniors Austin Combs (wingback), Collin Fish (fullback) and Jacob Marzka are the other returning starters and Combs led all returning players in rushing with 65 carries for 463 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Brandon Harvey is the other starting wingback, while sophomore Garrett Dahn shares time at split end with Marzka, sophomore Andrew Rose and junior Jake Dombkowski are the top two tight ends and sophomore Kenny Youngberg is the new starting quarterback.

 

 

DEFFENSE

Allowed 17.4 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 4

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 8

 

Cornerback Marzka and inside linebacker Harvey give the LeBoeuf defense two returning all-region members, although the team must replace first team all-region defensive tackle Conti. Senior Gabe Dylewski is the only returning starter on this year's line and he's joined at defensive tackle by Dombkowski with Stull one of the defensive ends and Beer and Rose sharing time at the other. Reinwald moves from defensive end to be the other inside linebacker with Kula and senior Sampson Adams the outside backers, Combs back as the starting safety and Dahn the second cornerback.       

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Senior Donovan Owens enters his third season as the kicker, while Combs is the punter and one of three potential punt/kick returners with Harvey and sophomore Robbie Ossa the others.

 

 

OUTLOOK

LeBoeuf ended a three year postseason drought with last season's trip and is looking to put together back-to-back winning campaigns for the first time since 2003 and 2004. Two things that could go a long way in determining whether or not the Bisons can do that are how good of a job the sophomore quarterback does in running the offense whether one of the running backs can replace the production left by the departure of Carroll.

 

 

7. MERCYHURST PREP LAKERS

HEAD COACH: Jeff Root (first year)

2012 RECORD: 3-4 Region 2 (tied fourth), 3-7 overall

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 42-14

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 78-33

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 6* (2006-2007 and 2009-2012)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 1 (2007)

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

all playoff appearances in last 10 years were as Class A team 

 

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 22.3 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in Region 2: 5

Amongst 14 Class A teams in district: 9

 

Mercyhurst was the only Class A team that averaged at least 20 points per game, but still failed to qualify for the postseason last year and the team's offense featured two 1,000 yard rushers. While Joe Swanson (168 carries, 1047 yards, 14 touchdowns) is no longer around, Eric Baer (155-1016-12) is back for his senior year and is joined in this year's starting backfield by classmate Scott Gorring (68-302-302). Senior Nick Evanoff enters his third season as the team's starting quarterback (931 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, 12 interceptions in that time) and the starting wide receivers are senior Tommie Elias (11 receptions, 189 yards, three touchdowns) and sophomore Hunter Kallay. Senior Tristen Perry is the new tight end and the line includes two returning starters in senior classmates Nick McHenry (tackle) and Michael Sweeney (center). Colin Zeyfang (senior) gives the team a third senior starter up front with juniors Ren Rivers (tackle) and Ryan Komar (guard) the other starters.

 

 

DEFENSE

Allowed 32.9 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in Region 2: 6

Amongst 14 Class A teams in district: 11

 

If Mercyhurst is going to make a serious postseason push then the defense will have to be much better as it allowed fewer than 29 points just twice last season and gave up at least 46 four times. Even with the loss of first team all-region selection Swanson (58 tackles, one sack) the linebacker unit could be the strength of this year's defense as Baer (42 tackles) was also a first team a selection and is joined as a starter by Gorring (28 tackles, one sack), junior Ryley Moneta (55 tackles) and senior Josh Yocum. Elias led last year's team with two interceptions, adding 50 tackles and is the starting safety with Kallay and junior Jeremy Montefiori the cornerbacks. McHenry and Sweeney combined for 19 tackles last season and are the starting defensive tackles with Komar and Dennis Warborko the defensive ends.

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Senior Chad Gernovich handles all kicking and punting responsibilities and the top kick/punt returners are Elias and Kallay.

 

 

OUTLOOK

In his first year in charge and with both a new offense (pistol) and defense (425) in place, coach Root knows there will be an adjustment period, but even with that and the jump to Class AA the goals for the Lakers remain high as they look to reach the postseason for the seventh time in nine years. 

 

 

 

8. HARBOR CREEK HUSKIES

HEAD COACH: Ned Bailey (first year)

2012 RECORD: 1-9 region (eighth), 0-7 overall

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 5 YEARS: 15-35

CUMULATIVE RECORD IN LAST 10 YEARS: 52-54

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 3 (2004 and 2006-2007)

DISTRICT TITLES IN LAST 10 YEARS: 0

PIAA FINALS APPEARANCES: 0

 

 

OFFENSE

Averaged 8.5 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 8

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 16

 

2013 marked fifth time in six years that Harbor Creek averaged no more than 14 points per game and the first time during that stretch that it put up less than 10 per contest and in its first season under former McDowell assistant Ned Bailey the Husky offense will open things up a little more and go to a spread pistol look. Senior Nick Harayda is back as the starting quarterback and is surrounded by some familiar faces in fellow seniors Silas Bretz (tailback) and Jake Raymond (halfback) and junior halfback Alex Locco-Nielsen. Junior Gabe Mattson and seniors Carter Catrabone and Logan Conboy are the split ends and the line is led by junior Luke Brooks, who returns as one of the starting tackles. Junior Nick Beerbower is the other tackle, senior Dan Decker is the center and the guards are senior Drake Heyer and junior Eric Metz.

 

 

DEFENSE

Allowed 34.9 points per game last season

RANK

Amongst eight teams in region: 8

Amongst 16 Class AA teams in district: 14

 

While the Husky defense allowed opponents to average more than 25 points per game in three of the previous five seasons, last year was the first time during that stretch that they gave up 30+ per contest and in Bailey's first year the team will employ a 44 defense. As many as seven players who start on offense could go both ways and that includes defensive ends Heyer and Bretz and defensive tackle Beerbower. Junior nose tackle Devin Poland completes the line and the linebackers are Raymond, Decker and Metz. In the secondary Locco-Nielsen and junior Noah Weber are the cornerbacks and both of the starting safeties are also juniors in Christian Loeffler and Nicholas Manna.

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Loeffler is the punter, Conboy is the kickoff specialist and senior Justin Dedionisio handles PATs and field goals with Weber, Locco-Nielsen and senior Cornell Pearson handling kick and punt returns.

 

 

OUTLOOK

Last year was the second straight season that Harbor Creek won a single game and in Bailey's first year as a coach the immediate goal is to surpass that win total.